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What’s ON: The week that was in Ontario politics (March 14-March 18) – TVO

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Every Friday, TVO.org provides a summary of the most notable developments in Ontario politics over the past week.

Here’s what caught our attention:

Queen’s Park keywords

Baby, you can drive my (hybrid or fully-electric) car: On Wednesday, as first reported by The Logic, Honda Canada announced a $1.4-billion plan to build hybrid-electric cars in Ontario. The plan included $263 million in support from the provincial and federal governments, which have greater plans to transition Canada’s automotive industry toward hybrid and fully-electric cars. In a joint news conference with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at Honda’s Alliston plant, Premier Doug Ford indicated his government will not bring back the electric vehicle subsidies it scrapped. Opposition parties took the opportunity to say they’ll implement electric vehicle rebates if they win the June election.

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The province announced Friday it will bring electric vehicle fast chargers to five more ONroute stations in the province, for a total of 11.

Mining: In Thunder Bay on Thursday, Ford announced a “critical minerals strategy” for Ontario. This plan will guide the movement of raw material resources from the north to the south. These include materials used to make batteries for electric vehicles, smartphones, and pharmaceuticals. Lawyers and advocates for First Nations in northern Ontario tell CBC News they’re concerned First Nations will not be properly involved, and that the government will not address environmental concerns.

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Energy credits: CBC News reports there’s a provincial proposal to sell energy credits to companies looking to lower their carbon footprint. Businesses could buy credits and count them toward carbon-reduction targets. Critics say this would not reduce emissions.  

This week, columnist Matt Gurney wrote a three-part series covering energy in Ontario for TVO.org.

Unmasking: Staff and students in schools will no longer have to wear masks as of Monday, but some boards asked for an exception. The Ontario government denied requests from public boards in Toronto and Waterloo to keep mandating masking. Hamilton’s public school board openly defied the province last week by deciding to enforce masking later than March 21. Board chair Dawn Danko has asked Hamilton’s medical officer of health Elizabeth Richardson to allow mandatory masking through an order under the Health Protection and Promotion Act.

The Ministry of Health says there was a 23 per cent week-to-week increase in COVID-19 vaccination appointments for children aged five to 11 following Moore’s announcement that masking would end. The Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table published modelling Thursday predicting there will be a “manageable” increase in cases following the easing of restrictions.

This week, The Agenda asked if Ontario is ready to ditch masking.

Agenda segment March 16, 2022: Is Ontario ready to ditch masking?

Permanent PSW pandemic pay: Some personal support workers who received pay bonuses of $3 per hour during the pandemic will get to keep their raises. Ford confirmed this in Brampton Tuesday. Recently, the government promised Ontario nurses a $5,000 retention bonus.

Medical school: At that same Brampton announcement, Ford said Ontario will add spots to medical schools and residencies, calling it the biggest expansion in 10 years. He says the 160 new medical school and 295 new postgraduate positions will help prepare the next generation of doctors.

Childcare: During his Wednesday news conference with Trudeau, Ford said there will be an announcement on a deal to reduce child care costs “very, very soon.” This is the first time Ford has promised a fast approaching announcement on the federal child care plan, for which Ontario is the only unsigned province.

Polling: Government documents CBC News accessed through a freedom of information request show the Ontario government received its worst polling results of the pandemic this winter. 

Staying out of it: Premier Doug Ford says neither he nor any of his party’s MPPs will support anyone running for federal Conservative party leader, and will not work on their campaigns.

Ejected: Late Thursday, Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath removed Hamilton East-Stoney Creek MPP Paul Miller from caucus. Miller says this is due to fabricated evidence, an assertion the NDP disputes. Horwath says the party found something while vetting Miller for the 2022 election that it found unacceptable. Neither Miller nor the party have said what this was, but the Toronto Star reports its sources confirm the ousting is not due to criminal behavious, sexual misconduct, or previous allegations of bullying, discrimination and abuse.  

Return to work: Ontario’s public service will slow down its return-to-the-workplace plan, meaning about 30,000 people who have been working remotely will not be required to come in three days per week until mid-May. 

More Ontario politics coverage on TVO

#onpoli podcast: Goodbye mask mandates

#onpoli podcast March 15, 2022: Goodbye Mask Mandates

Steve Paikin and John Michael McGrath discuss whether the decision to end mandatory masking is based on science or politics. They also have a surprising interview with Rima Berns-McGown, NDP MPP for Beaches-East York, about why she won’t be running for a second term.

Housing: In a column, John Michael McGrath wonders if Ontario will get a housing bill before the upcoming election. He writes: “We’re now almost two months out from TVO.org’s first reporting on the contents of the province’s Housing Affordability Task Force report, and we have yet to see anything resembling a bill from Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing Steve Clark. There’s a finite amount of time left in the political calendar; the house must be dissolved before the June 2 election, and anything that isn’t passed by May 4 will go up like so much legislative smoke. And the government still has to get a budget passed.”

Beyond the Pink Palace:

Leadership race: A new Ontario contender joined the race to replace Erin O’Toole as leader of the federal conservative party: Scott Aitchison, MP for Parry Sound-Muskoka and former mayor of Huntsville. The grisly guitar soundtrack to a video announcement he tweeted Wednesday drew more than one comparison to a pick-up truck advertisement.

Steve Paikin offered his take on who’s winning the race so far.

LTC mandates: Though the province is no longer making it mandatory, CTV News reports many long-term-care homes in Ontario say they will continue mandating COVID-19 vaccination for workers.

Ch-ch-changes: Health minister Christine Elliott will stop teweeting out daily COVID-19 numbers. Also, scientific director Peter Jüni is resigning from Ontario’s science table to take a research job at the University of Oxford.

Jerry Dias: The Globe and Mail reported that Jerry Dias, the labour leader who retired from his job as president of Unifor citing health reasons, is under investigation by the union for allegedly breaching its constitution. The union has not shared specifics. Unifor is Canada’s biggest private-sector union and represents 315,000 workers. 

Coming out: Ottawa West-Nepean MPP Jeremy Roberts wrote about coming out while working in politics.

Healthcare harassment: TVO.org finished publishing its series on healthcare worker harassment. This week, we brought you the first-person narratives of a northern Ontario nurse who left the profession, a GTA doctor who’s seen an uptick in harassment in-person and online, and a respiratory therapist who compared coming into work with walking into “hell.”

TVO.org also published a Q&A with two researchers about abuse, violence, and burnout in the health-care system.

Online gambling: Ontario’s iGaming is set to launch next month, and while it’s been touted as a way to take online sports betting out of a gray market, the impact on many First Nations may be profound. Chief Kelly LaRocca of the Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation joined The Agenda  ​​​​​​​to talk about it.

Agenda segment, March 17, 2022: Why First Nations oppose online gambling

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Petr Pavel: Polyglot, war hero, and the new Czech president – Euronews

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Ex-general Petr Pavel has won another gritty campaign — this time at the ballot box.

The bearded 61-year-old, a decorated veteran who took part in a high-stakes peacekeeping mission in the Balkans and represented his country as a top-tier NATO general, was voted Czech president on Saturday, beating billionaire ex-prime minister Andrej Babiš.

With the ballots from 97% of almost 15,000 polling stations counted by the Czech Statistics Office, Pavel had 57.8% of the vote compared with 42.2% for Babiš.

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Though Czech presidents wield little day-to-day power, Pavel will have influence over foreign policy and government opinion, as well as the power to appoint prime ministers, constitutional judges and central bankers.

True to his military past, he has vowed to bring “order” to the Czech Republic, a 10 million-strong EU and NATO member, hammered by record inflation and economic turmoil due to the Ukraine war.

“I can’t ignore the fact that people here increasingly feel chaos, disorder and uncertainty. That the state has somehow ceased to function,” Pavel said on his campaign website.

“We need to change this,” he added. “We need to play by the rules, which will be valid for everyone alike. We need a general sweep.”

From Communist to war hero

Following in his father’s footsteps, Pavel underwent a military education in former Czechoslovakia, which was then ruled by Moscow-backed communists.

He joined the Communist Party, like his billionaire rival Babiš, and soon rose through the army ranks, studying to become an intelligence agent for the oppressive regime.

Critics fault him for his communist past, though Pavel has defended himself by saying party membership was “normal” in his family and called it a “mistake”.

When the Iron Curtain crumbled in 1989, Pavel chucked out his party ID but went ahead with the intelligence course.

Amid the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, Pavel — trained as an elite paratrooper and holding the rank of Lieutenant Colonel at the time — helped evacuate French troops stuck in the midst of combat between Croats and ethnic Serb paramilitaries in Croatia, earning him the French Military Cross for bravery.

“We got into several tense situations and he always managed them with deliberation and calm,” said retired Czech general Aleš Opata, who served with Pavel.

He later studied at military training schools in Britain, gaining a master’s from King’s College London.

After his country joined NATO in 1999, Pavel soon climbed through the alliance’s ranks, becoming its top military official in 2015. 

With a chest full of decorations, he retired in 2018.

What are his political views?

Pavel ran as an independent and was the strongest of the three candidates backed by the liberal-conservative coalition SPOLU of now-former President Miloš Zeman.

He has argued for better redistribution of wealth and greater taxation of the rich while also supporting progressive policies on issues such as same-sex marriage and euthanasia.

Positioning himself as a counterweight to populism, Pavel anchors the Czech Republic in NATO and wants to align his country with the European Union.

“The main issue at stake is whether chaos and populism will continue to rein or we return to observing rules… and we will be a reliable country for our allies,” he said after narrowly winning the first election round.

A staunch supporter of Ukraine, Pavel’s political rivals have alleged he would drag the country into a war with Russia.

“I know what war is about and I certainly don’t wish it on anyone,” said Pavel. “The first thing I would do is try to keep the country as far away from war as possible.”

Often sporting jeans and a leather jacket, Pavel is a polyglot, speaking Czech, English, French and Russian, and loves motorcycling.

He holds a concealed weapon licence, allowing him to carry a firearm, and he is married to a fellow soldier, Eva Pavlová.

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Canadian and American Politics

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THIS SURVEY EXPLORES CANADIANS’ AND AMERICANS’ PERSPECTIVES ON CANADIAN AND AMERICAN POLITICS.

Our latest North American Tracker explores Canadians’ and Americans’ perspectives on Canadian and American politics.

It examines Canadians’ federal voting intentions and Americans’ approval of President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris.

Download the report for the full results.

This survey was conducted in collaboration with the Association for Canadian Studies (ACS) and published in the Canadian Press. This series of surveys is available on Leger’s website.

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CANADIAN POLITICS

  • The Conservatives and Liberals are tied: if a federal election were held today, 34% of Canadian decided voters would vote for Pierre Poilievre’s CPC and the same proportion would vote for Justin Trudeau’s LPC.

AMERICAN POLITICS

  • 42% of Americans approve of the way Joe Biden is handling his job as president.
  • 40% of Americans approve of the way Kamala Harris is handling her job as vice-president.

METHODOLOGY

This web survey was conducted from January 20 to 22, 2023, with 1,554 Canadians and 1,005 Americans, 18 years of age or older, randomly recruited from LEO’s online panel.

A margin of error cannot be associated with a non-probability sample in a panel survey. For comparison, a probability sample of 1,554 respondents would have a margin of error of ±2.49%, 19 times out of 20, while a probability sample of 1,005 respondents would have a margin of error of ±3.09%, 19 times out of 20.

THIS REPORT CONTAINS THE RESULTS FOR THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS AND MORE!

  • If federal elections were held today, for which political party would you be most likely to vote?  Would it be for…?
  • Overall, do you approve or disapprove of the way Joe Biden is handling his job as president?
  • Overall, do you approve or disapprove of the way Kamala Harris is handling her job as vice president?​
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Legault won’t celebrate 25 years in politics

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Premier François Legault does not intend to celebrate his 25-year political career this year.

He became Minister of Industry in Lucien Bouchard’s PQ government on Sept. 23, 1998, but was elected on Nov. 30 of the same year as the representative for L’Assomption, the riding in which he is still a member.

In a news conference on Friday at the end of a caucus meeting of his party’s elected officials in a Laval hotel, the CAQ leader said that neither he nor his party had any intention of celebrating this anniversary.

“I don’t like these things,” he said.

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He pointed out that he is still younger than the former dean of the National Assembly, François Gendron. And smiling, he alluded to the U.S. President.

“I’m quite a bit younger than Mr. Biden, apart from that!” he said.

Legault is 65 years old, while the President is 80.

However, Legault is now the dean of the House. According to recent data, he has served as an elected official for 20 years, 6 months, and 27 days so far.

The premier was quick to add, however, that he has taken a break from politics.

He resigned on June 24, 2009 as a member of the Parti Québécois (PQ), then in opposition. But he was elected as an MNA and leader of the then-new Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) on Sept. 4, 2012.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Jan. 27, 2023.

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